Biglaw --> Boutique

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Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:13 am

At a V10 in NY. I've been in biglaw for about 16 months, and have about another 8 months of loan payments by paying a steady $3.0-$3.5k/month. I figure by next year's bonus I could have a small enough nest egg saved up to return to my smaller/regional market (e.g. Denver, Austin, San Diego, etc.). Its been my goal/dream to have my own legal practice (some seem to refer to this as "shit law" but I'd like to think of it as more of a transactional boutique). I understand that I'll probably make much less than a first-year associate (for a while at least), and the biz dev will be a grind.

The problem is, having rotated through several transactional groups, I feel like I know very little about anything. If anyone has any experience going from biglaw --> starting your own practice, it'd be great to hear about your experiences. I have a feeling that maybe it makes sense to stay in biglaw a couple years longer, but this lifestyle sucks (and giving yourself to it for more than 2.5 or 3 years seems soul crushing). Maybe it would make sense to try to join a small boutique in the smaller/regional market for a couple of years to bridge the gap.. Any anecdotes would be great. Thx and happy holidays.

RaceJudicata

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby RaceJudicata » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:41 am

I worked for a small, two lawyer firm throughout law school that did some pretty sophisticated stuff relative to size. Owner was former big law partner. So no direct experience hanging shingle. I worked there 1L fall thru end of 3L (aside from my SA). But I will say that my boss worked a TON - and not because he took on too much work, but because when you own the place you are responsible for everything. . . Billing, biz development, buying supplies, paying bills, fixing tech, filing shit, secretarial tasks, etc.

That said, he seemed to love it, and could pick up on a dime if things were slow and take a vacation or whatever.

run26.2

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby run26.2 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:59 am

It is hard to go from biglaw to your own practice. I would think that would be compounded by the fact that you haven't focused in any particular area. What is your expertise? How are you going to get clients? Seems like your first step needs to be answering the question of how you are going to get regular work in the door. Maybe use your time in biglaw to develop relationships you can leverage if/when you leave (obviously, there are challenges to doing this, since you don't always control the clients you work for, their size, or the amount of interaction you have). But you might want to think about whether there are deals or cases you can get on that would give you experiences or relationships you could leverage down the road.

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jkpolk

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby jkpolk » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:10 pm

Starting your own transactional firm after a few years is an interesting move if you have a lot of local business contacts. Obviously no one is going to throw you major transactional work at you but it's possible you could do in house type work for small companies that don't have in-house counsel. Commercial contracts, corporate governance, employment contracts, know how to set up payroll, be able to hook businesses up with accountants, etc from your rolodex - that sort of thing.

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:00 am

OP here.
JKPolk -- that's pretty much exactly the situation I'm aspiring towards. Still just trying to figure out how to bridge the gap. Really appreciate the perspective.

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RedGiant

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby RedGiant » Wed Dec 13, 2017 11:48 am

I had a friend who was Lathamized during the Lathamizing. She and another Latham associate set up their own firm. She hustled her arse off to get clients and ended up doing about $100K in business in her first year, which she split with the other associate. Other associate considered all types of socializing business development, and just sucked the firm dry, "doing BD" while she brought in no work, and did no work. So my cautionary tale is that if you take on a partner, clearly delineate what expenses are OK, and how you're going to split the work--eat what you kill, or both work on everything. Also, I remember that malpractice insurance was VERY expensive.

There are several ABA guides to setting up your own practice, and you might also want to check out LOMAP in your area. (It's like an umbrella organization that teaches you how to be efficient in your own practice.)

I would also try to scope out business networking organizations or events that you could target for networking when you return to your hometown. You could also consider partnering with a site like UpCounsel or the like, or specializing in one area.

Another one of my friends left a biglaw Silicon Valley firm and exclusively provides counsel to employees regarding stock options. It's really lucrative--a lot of startup employees get options and don't know what they have, what's market, how to negotiate, etc.

I do think you will have a lot more cred if you make it to "midlevel." You might also consider lateralling to your new market, working for someone else for a year or two (doesn't have to be biglaw) and gaining wisdom from someone who's in the trenches. You don't have to biglaw-->own shingle right away.

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:31 pm

OP again. Much appreciated RedGiant.. I think that's what I've decided to do. I may stay in biglaw another 3-6 months while I network back home as much as possible.. salary data for boutiques around the country (and on TLS) seem pretty opaque. I woudn't mind taking a 50% paycut from $190k to $95k, but its tough to know what's even "market." After 3 years of LS and 1.5 years of biglaw, its a new game. I'll plan to check back in a year or so and let people know how things are going / any advice for those in a similar position. Thanks all.

Jay2716

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby Jay2716 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:34 pm

I agree with the above. I think the best way to bridge the gap would be to lateral. Try to get on at a small to midsize firm doing the kind of work you want in the market you want to end up in. You will be able to rack up some experience doing more substantive aspects of smaller transactions while networking. While this would delay your goal, you have a good shot at landing a job at a place that is much more humane than your current firm. Then you could go out as a 6th or 7th year when you really have an idea what you are doing while having a more developed network in your target market.

PorscheFanatic

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby PorscheFanatic » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:50 pm

I would also add (kudos to you for paying off your loans 8 months from now) that you may want to stay in Biglaw a bit longer for the money. Starting any business requires capital, since likely you'll be sitting around for awhile before you've developed a book of clients, and you need money to keep the lights on. After your loans are paid, if you stayed even one more year, continuing to put $3k away in a bank somewhere, that's some good money toward starting your practice. Presumably you'll also get a raise and a bigger bonus that year because of lockstep, so instead of banking $36k, you might be able to clear an additional $50k into your nest egg with no change in lifestyle (assuming you're not currently blowing your yearly bonus on toys and such, which it sounds like you don't).

Sorry I can't offer much advice into the actual mechanics of starting your own practice...but I imagine for people like you (i.e. the ones who aren't in golden handcuffs and feel free to leave any day) Biglaw is not quite as miserable as it is for everyone else. Everyday you can just tell yourself, if today sucks really hard, I'll just walk out and quit.

Or you could start slacking and see if they'll fire you with severance...

spud3000

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby spud3000 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:14 pm

While not a biglaw refugee, I started my own firm about 2 years after graduating. First, malpractice insurance is cheap to start. You won't have a huge tail to worry about. Second, there are a ton of ways to grind for business, one of which is to network with other attorneys and ask for referrals when they might have a conflict or are priced out for the client. Third, stay lean and don't spend big on overhead. You can design your own website with Wix or any of the other drag and drop template sites. There are a million other things that you can find out from SoloSez and the like. The biggest thing, and what you have clearly identified, is that you don't know shit. You will need to develop relationships with more experienced attorneys who can steer you in the right direction. Identify the practice guides that are actually helpful and read them. There are often local bar association list-servs where people crowd-source knowledge. Use your remaining time with a steady paycheck networking back home. Also, it supposedly takes about 3 years for a practice to start making money, so budget your nest-egg accordingly.

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Re: Biglaw --> Boutique

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:32 pm

PorscheFanatic wrote:I would also add (kudos to you for paying off your loans 8 months from now) that you may want to stay in Biglaw a bit longer for the money. Starting any business requires capital, since likely you'll be sitting around for awhile before you've developed a book of clients, and you need money to keep the lights on. After your loans are paid, if you stayed even one more year, continuing to put $3k away in a bank somewhere, that's some good money toward starting your practice. Presumably you'll also get a raise and a bigger bonus that year because of lockstep, so instead of banking $36k, you might be able to clear an additional $50k into your nest egg with no change in lifestyle (assuming you're not currently blowing your yearly bonus on toys and such, which it sounds like you don't).

Sorry I can't offer much advice into the actual mechanics of starting your own practice...but I imagine for people like you (i.e. the ones who aren't in golden handcuffs and feel free to leave any day) Biglaw is not quite as miserable as it is for everyone else. Everyday you can just tell yourself, if today sucks really hard, I'll just walk out and quit.

Or you could start slacking and see if they'll fire you with severance...


This thread had been really thankful, thanks everybody. I'm going to start using a lot of the mentioned resources over the Winter Holidays.

The main reason my time is almost up in biglaw is the combination of 1) how exhausting it is, 2) how much the work I'm doing (e.g. capital markets due diligence) is likely not relevant to what I hope to be doing in 1-2 years time, and 3) paying off $3.5k/month has been such an effort that, even when I do have free time in NY, I don't have much money to spend.

If I were to commit to staying longer (e.g. 6-12 months instead of 3-6), I imagine I would still likely be taking close to monthly trips to my home market starting after the new year. How long can one just say "no" to work and coast on 100 hours/month? Can you do that for 6+ months? That certainly hasn't been my strategy to date, having billed 2600 hours of total crap in 2017. Kudos to you guys who are able to do this for more than 2 years. Seriously.

For the above posted who started their own practice after 2 years of graduating... what's your general run rate on costs, out of curiosity? Some of these sources quote $5k/month, which seems high to me if you can do a lot of the things you mentioned + work out of a WeWork office serving entrepreneurs.



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